As the General Election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians of all parties to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. The charity reports more people than ever before are being forced to food banks, with more than 88,000 emergency food parcels given out to people in London in the past six months.
New data released today shows April 2018 to September 2019 to be one of the busiest half-year periods for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network in London since the charity opened. During the six months, 88,379 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis in London; more than a third of these (31,721) went to children.
This is a 22% increase on the same period in 2018 – one of the sharpest rates of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.
The figures come against a backdrop of soaring food bank use as food banks across the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network distributed 823,145 emergency food parcels in the last six months; almost half of these (301,653) went to children.
The main reasons for people needing emergency food across the UK are benefits consistently not covering the cost of living (36%), and delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid.
The new figures come just a week after the Trussell Trust released State of Hunger, the most in-depth study ever published into hunger and the drivers of food bank use in the UK. The research revealed:
· The average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent
· One in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food
· 94% of people at food banks are destitute
State of Hunger shows there are three drivers hitting people simultaneously and leaving no protection from hunger and poverty. These drivers are problems with the benefits system, ill health or challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.
One of the key issues people at food banks face is the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment. Although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April – Sept 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.
At the moment, people moving onto the government’s new benefits system have to wait at least five weeks – and often longer – with no money. People can get offered an Advance Payment, but this is a loan that must be paid back, often forcing people into debt.
As the election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians on all sides to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. It is asking the next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by:
1. Ending the five week wait for Universal Credit
2. Ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living
3. Investing in local emergency support for people in crisis
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:
“More people than ever before in London are being forced to food banks’ doors. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.
“This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty. This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.
“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”